Anna Dello Russo is one of the most photographed editors and designers at fashion events worldwide. She has developed an eclectic, hybrid and spectacular appearance that reflects the global look of today and tomorrow. K magazine explores her world….
In France, Vogue features the dark, sleek elegance of Parisian Emmanuelle Alt. On the other side of the Atlantic, there’s the classy opulence of Anna Wintour. And then there’s the remarkable extravagance of Anna Dello Russo, who worked at Vogue Italia and Vogue Uomo for 18 years before becoming a media icon and editor-at-large of Vogue Japan.
Dello Russo cultivates a theatrical allure that has captured the social networks’ imagination and turned her into a pop sensation. From Italy to Japan, the hyper-stylist orchestrates a vivid, baroque and playful eclecticism that is the complement – or refreshing alternative – to a certain international minimalism.
“Excess is best!” is one of the 10 rules Dello Russo lists on her site about the art of managing her impact in the front rows of fashion shows – and manage it she does. From very early on, Dello Russo grasped that in the digital age, an aura spreads at the speed of a thousand clicks a minute and an outfit must attract the spotlight just as fast. Dazzling on the side-lines of a fashion show has become nearly as important as the show itself.
Dello Russo cultivates excess as an artist, a diva and a professional. She favours flashy patterns and colours, an unreasonable love of lavish furs and an exorbitant amount of accessories and jewellery, at the risk of being labelled bling bling. An avid collector of clothes and accessories, her pieces fill an entire flat in Milan. Then there is the excess of her own figure: a tall, lithe, leggy, tanned, age-defying body that enthusiastically embraces all the madness of the catwalks.
The website that serves as her calling card also showcases her excessiveness: a vertiginous platform of events like a pop-art affirmation of the almighty power of images. It would take hours to browse through all the editorials, features, collaborations, portraits and interviews the press has published about her as well as those she has devoted to her designer and artist friends, not to mention photographs of her own, enormous collection.
Then there’s the lookalike that she and her dream team created just for the web: a virtual doll, Lulla, who can be endlessly dressed and re-dressed according to whim and fashion.
The site also features a manga version of a short biography of her, where most of the images appear in gold rococo frames with scrolls and acanthus leaves, somewhere between kitsch and Italian baroque. Dello Russo cross-fertilises cultures and mixes tastes, good or bad, with a joyous immediacy.
Creatures beyond borders
Dello Russo is a trend-setter of Italian fashion in more ways than one. But she also recalls the trendy young people in Tokyo’s Shibuya quarter who, in the early 1990s, yearning to break free of their elders’ traditional social behaviour, looked to Western modernity with unprecedented exuberance.
The fiercely intellectual Japanese designers who arrived in Paris in the 1980s revolutionised the landscape with lasting effects, and Japanese fashion still looks boldly forward. They develop form and its effects in every realm with neither hierarchy nor judgement; they also enjoy theatricality and its wondrous travesties, because cultivating the beauty of this ‘‘floating world’’ means embracing the ephemeral as well as exalting fragility.
It’s no wonder that the dyed wigs and bubble-gum pink hairpieces of young Japanese women sporting the Kawaii look became a source of inspiration for a March 2015 Vogue Japan editorial in the form of a Manga Tribute photographed by Giampaolo Sgura. The bags in smooth, coloured leather blend with plush toys. The graphic handling of the make-up exaggeratedly widens the eyes of the model, Natasha Poly, whose oversized duvet covers put the finishing touches on the floral, beaded fall of a Gucci dress for a jubilant feminine parade.
Dello Russo thus brings Italy and Japan together in a single brilliant ode to lavishness and frivolity, a single rigorous art of detail and whimsy. Transcending borders, she sketches out a culture of diversity and free association that you can easily imagine spreading to and thriving in Brazil, provided the created silhouettes look intensely striking and move ever faster on the web.
Dello Russo dreams of northern Italy’s fabulous Bomarzo gardens, a folly, dating back to the 16th century, that Miyazaki would have been proud of dreaming up for Spirited Away, his film about the world of the yokai, his country’s spirits and the theme parks that were devoted to them.
In the May 2014 issue of Vogue Japan, Dello Russo made up a story called Ancient Songs of Praise, also photographed by Sgura, where the model posing amongst the trees and statues is coiffed with majestic exotic feathers, fabulous finery transcending the scenery’s strangeness with that season’s dresses and their spring effects.
The inscription amongst the grotesques, chimeras, mermaids and monumental stone monsters reads:
You who wander through the world / In search of high and stupefying wonders/ Come hither! You will find terrible faces / Elephants, lions, bears, whales and dragons.
At its best, Dello Russo’s style is an art of creatures. In excess, of course.
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